Saturday, August 09, 2008


Aphorism of the Day: "Communism means more stability"

“Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record. —Keith Bradsher reporting in "Investors Seek Asian Options to Costly China"

By "communism" Mr. Shu meant the capitalist systems of China and Vietnam, shorn of the democratic hypocrisies required of their counterparts in the West. In the preceding paragraph Bradsher noted what a capitalist paradise looks like—

Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.

It looks like a truly "conservative" government to me if you substitute "Republican" for "nominally Communist"—the sort of thing our businessmen have been trying to establish here at home with the assistance of their Republican cadres and Democratic fellow travelers.

I probably wouldn't have noticed Bradsher's story if the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson hadn't gone on about it at some length. He writes

Doing business in China is beginning to cost real money. Not that Chinese workers are buying second homes or anything like that: Their average wage is still a little short of a dollar an hour. But so many Chinese have now left their villages for the factories that the once bottomless pool of new young workers is beginning to run dry, and the wages of assembly-line employees are rising 10 percent a year.

Worse yet, new labor laws are making it harder for employers to cheat their workers out of their wages and benefits. Many American businesses that do their manufacturing in China had warned against those laws; the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai had flatly opposed them. But the good old days of Maoist labor discipline, when the government could send tens of millions of skilled workers down to the farms to be toughened up and periodically tortured, are gone. Mao's heirs, though not above a touch of torture here and there just to keep the system humming along, are concerned, as he was not, with achieving social harmony, even if that means compelling employers to sign, and honor, contracts with their employees.

Confronted with such appalling squishiness, what's a good, cost-cutting American business to do? Many are fleeing south of the border -- not our border (Mexico costs way too much) but China's.

All fine and good coming from the only avowed socialist I know of who writes for the mainstream media.

But then Meyerson goes over the edge, tossing around the word "communist" as if he were the last of the Cold War warriors—

Now, far be it from me to begrudge the Vietnamese their moment in the sun before global capital finds them too costly and moves on to Bangladesh and Somalia. But didn't we fight a war to keep Vietnam from going communist? Something like 58,000 American deaths, right? And now American business actually prefers investing in communist Vietnam over, say, the more or less democratic Philippines? In all likelihood, it would prefer investing in communist Vietnam to investing in a more chaotic, less disciplined democratic Vietnam, if such existed.

It's one thing to call a spade a "spade." It's quite another to call an antidemocratic spade a "communist."

But Meyerson does finally get to the crux of the matter in his own befuddled way—

Let's imagine, just as an exercise, that we're trying to explain this to those 58,000 Americans and their loved ones.

... we could argue that our onetime opposition to communism was noble and all that but that, unburdened by the illusions of the past, American business, backed by the American government, has realized that the problem with communism wasn't that it was undemocratic but that it was anti-capitalist. And that once communism was integrated into a world capitalist system, its antipathy toward democracy not only wouldn't be a bad thing but would actually be good. That is clearly the political logic that underpins our involvement with China. It's a little dicier to say this about our growing involvement with Vietnam, since all those Americans whose names are on that wall on the Mall probably didn't realize how compatible with global American enterprise Vietnamese communism would turn out to be or how the cause of democracy would turn out to have been of no real importance at all.

I have no doubt that if Marriott manages to open new hotel-retail complexes in Iraq and Afghanistan and Exxon has Iraqi oil flowing freely, some latter-day socialist will bemoan the deception of the public into the belief that these wars were fought for "democracy."

I just hope the writer will be a little more careful with the language. Governments that serve capitalist interests aren't communist, and they sure as hell ain't democratic.

Related posts
The death of the Left (11/27/04)
Superfluous beliefs (6/10/05)
Red Scare II: Mayday! Mayday! It was May Day all over again (5/03/06)


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